An Overview of Mark’s Gospel

We recently blogged about the importance of overviews of books of the Bible.  No need to repeat that here.

Instead, it seemed sensible to put both the handouts for the Overview of Mark’s gospel in one place.  So here is handout 1 and here is handout 2.

Do please adapt the evangelistic Bible studies at the end of the second handout and use them in your own outreach.

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. (Mark 4v20).

Ever-changing, Never-changing

Are you a Coca Cola or a Pepsi fan?  Everyone has their favourite.  And yet that favourite flavour is about to change.  According to recent reports, both Coca Cola and Pepsi are changing their ingredients to avoid having a cancer warning slapped on their cans.  Thus, the presentation on the outside will stay the same, but inside they will be different.  Do you think you will be able to tell the difference?

Here at Rock Baptist Church, we believe the Christian church is precisely the opposite.  We want to connect with contemporary culture, we want to be relevant.  The presentation on the outside is ever-changing because our society does not stand still.  But at the heart of our church, just as with all Christian churches across the world, lies an unchanging message of life in Jesus Christ presented in God’s unchanging Word.  The ingredients that make us who we are on the inside stay ever the same.

The Apostle Paul explains why the message of Jesus Christ must stay the same:

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal 1v11,12)

A Bird’s Eye View

Cambridge is a wonderful city to visit.  You can get lost in the small streets which make up the city centre, explore the cobbled roads and find the chic boutiques.  But it is great too to step back, or step up, and see the big picture, the view from above, to see the colleges stretching out into the distance.  Both perspectives are valuable and you can’t get to know the city well until you have seen both.

Week by week, here at Rock Baptist Church, we teach through the Bible, one book at a time, one small chunk at  time.  We value this careful and systematic Bible teaching.  We want to take God’s Word seriously because we love the Lord our God.  We want him to set the agenda and him to speak to us week by week.  This is our meat and drink.

The only problem with our approach is that sometimes we get to the end of a book of the Bible and we can’t quite remember how it began.  We try not to do this, but just sometimes we lose sight of the fact that each book of the Bible is a distinct piece of literature.

For that reason, we like to add an ‘overview’ of a book of the Bible into our teaching programme from time to time.  Like exploring Cambridge, it is good to submerge ourselves in the detail and it is good also to step up and see the big picture too.  Both perspectives help us better get to grips with God’s Word.

We would encourage such an approach in daily devotions too.  Don’t just read small chunks, a little at a time.  Read big chunks too.  Set aside an hour or more and read quickly through a book of the Bible.  See and enjoy the different perspective it brings.

In our evening services, we are currently enjoying a two-part overview of Mark’s gospel.  Here are the notes from the first week.  Have a read through Mark for yourself – it only takes about 45 minutes – and see if you spot the same themes.

Independent But Not Isolated

I learned two little nuggets of trivia this week about Rock Baptist Church.  The first is that it is almost 12 years to the day when Rock became an independent church (having previously been an off-shoot congregation of Eden Baptist Church for many years).  Our commitment to church planting remains and our latest venture (with Eden incidentally) begins this week in the north of Cambridge – Grace Church.

The second little nugget of trivia is that the school we meet in has long roots in non-Conformity.  There was a time when higher education was the preserve of Anglicans in this country.  We non-Conformist Baptists were not allowed entry into the great educational establishments of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.  And so the non-Conformists took it upon themselves to open new educational facilities.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, Morley Memorial School, where we meet each Sunday, was one of those new facilities.  Non-Conformity is in our spiritual DNA and in our brickwork too it seems.

This Sunday marks a new chapter for us as a church.  We trust we won’t forget our reformed non-Conformist roots.  And we trust that God will enable us to plant many more independent churches in the years ahead.

Word To The Wise

From this Sunday, 4th March, we will be changing our church Bibles from the tNIV translation to the new NIV 2011 translation.  This new version has had some time to be evaluated and by and large has been well received by many evangelical churches.  Issues still continue about the use (or otherwise) of gender inclusive language, but here at Rock we are happy that the NIV 2011 is an excellent balance of translating the Bible into contemporary English which reads well in a congregational setting from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

For Bible study, we recommend consulting a range of different English versions side-by-side.  You might want to consider using the Bible Gateway which will allow you to do this.  Or take a dip into the wonderful worlds of Greek and Hebrew study.

Also, if you find it helpful to read the Bible each day online, you might want to look at YouVersion.  They have some wonderful Bible reading plans.  And the plans come with a ‘Catch Me Up’ button in case you miss a day or two!  Why not set up your web browser to open on the YouVersion website and start each day by contemplating God’s Word.

May God’s Word be more precious to us than gold, and sweeter to us than honey from the comb. (Ps 19v10)

Here’s Prof. Doug Moo introducing the NIV 2011:

Emotional Momentum

Recently we have had a chance to mull over our Sunday morning worship services.  It has been a time to reflect on God’s Word and to think about what we do, why we do it and what works well.

One aspect that we have talked about is momentum – intellectual and emotional.  There’s an element to which we are good at building intellectual momentum in our services; we think carefully about our themes and build on these throughout.  But we have perhaps not thought much about how right and godly emotions are associated with the wonderful truths of God and the gospel that we are considering and how these emotions might build and dissipate through a service.

And so, in a recent training session for those who will lead morning services, we have thought about what we’re calling ’emotional momentum builders’ and ’emotional momentum busters’.  What helps develop our thinking, our worship, our heart through a service?  And what kills the momentum dead?

Perhaps you have thoughts you want to add.

The handout for the session can be downloaded here.

Walk the Walk

It’s been a tough week in German politics.  Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to be heading Italy but the trip was cancelled at the last minute.  Matters nearer to home needed addressing.

The Federal President, Christian Wulff, Merkel’s choice for the role, was forced into resigning his position after a scandal concerning a home loan became public knowledge.  According to the BBC, ‘German media say the crisis is unprecedented in post-war Germany.’

In the midst of the ongoing Eurozone financial crises, it is one more issue Merkel, Germany and Europe as a whole could do without.

And it serves as a timely reminder of the need for integrity in leadership – in politics and especially in the church.

There was a time in Israel’s history where its leaders were far from what they should have been.  They talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.  Perhaps they thought they would get away with their greed, avarice and stupidity.  Perhaps they forgot that ultimately it wasn’t the people they were accountable to but God himself:

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (Ex 34)

God saw.  God knew.  God judged.

7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. (Ex 34)

Such passages remind us that positions of leadership in the New Testament church come with great responsibility.  Christian church leaders are called to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.

Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Tim 4v12)

And, like those leaders of God’s people in the Old Testament period, it is ultimately before God that Christian leaders will be held account.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3v1)

Which brings us back to God’s promise to his people back in Ezekiel 34.  Their leaders had failed, but God would not abandon his people.  Instead he makes an amazing promise:

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” (Ez 34v11)

To which Jesus himself responds,

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10v14,15)

In Jesus, God himself cares for his people.   He models true self-less leadership.  He models true integrity.  Church leaders – pastors, ministers, elders, vicars, bishops – are just under-shepherds.  Let’s pray that our church leaders may know God’s grace as they seek to follow his lead.


Playing for God

Everyone loves an underdog story.  And those stories don’t get much better than Jeremy Lin’s.  Now, as the first Chinese-American in the NBA and one of the more successful Rookies, Lin is the hero of the New York Knicks and a new media darling.  But his journey to the NBA has been fraught with set-backs, discouragements and missed opportunities.

Lin has kept a healthy perspective through it all though.  As a Christian, he has a grounding, a security, beyond himself and his basketballing abilities.

“When the media attention was starting to grow around me, I felt as though I had to play well just to please everyone else. It was a great burden, and it took the joy out of the game for me. See, the truth is that I can’t even play for myself. The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God.”

And as he looks to the future and considers how God might use him?

I have to stay disciplined and consistent with my devotionals and fellowship.  I am going to be discipled by my pastor from my home church — and will attend my home church.  That will help out a lot.

I have a heart for inner city ministry and non-profit work.  So I’m learning and praying about what exactly that means.  I’m just trying to learn a lot and be sensitive to God so that I can expand his kingdom as much as possible.

These words from the Apostle Paul seem apt for us all:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3v23-24)

And, since I’m a huge basketball fan, here’s a clip of Lin in action:

Sharing Jesus

Answering people’s questions about our hope in Jesus is assumed to be a normal part of our Christian lives. Our lives are to be so distinctive that friends, neighbours, work colleagues can’t help but notice there’s something different about us… something hopeful.

Hear these words from 1 Peter 3:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Andrew Sweasey has been leading a review within the church of how we can better prepare ourselves for such conversations and how we can create more opportunities for evangelism together.  As part of that, Andrew led a team who put together a questionnaire which many of us completed.  If you click on the link below, you can see just a few of the results.

Evangelism Planning

Mike Partridge

Mike has been the Pastor of Rock Baptist Church since September 2010.

He played basketball for Leicester City Riders in his younger days, playing for England in the U21 squad before starting university.  He taught Social Sciences in Melton Mowbray, before becoming Midlands Team Leader for UCCF – an evangelical Christian fellowship supporting the work of student Christian Unions.  He became Pastor of Woodlands Evangelical Church in Derby for 3 years, and then began post-graduate theological studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology in 2007.

He is married to Dawn.  They have two sons: Joel and Noah.  He enjoys all sports, reading crime novels and spending time with his family.

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful.” (Prov 15:13)